ADD / ADHD Symptoms and Treatment for Australian Children

angry-kids-520x360_0Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)/ Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a common neuropsychiatric and behavioural disorder of childhood onset. The prevalence of ADHD/ADD in children is high; it is the most frequently observed neurobehavioral problem in the paediatric age group. Prevalence rates have been estimated to range between 2% and 15%, and boys are affected approximately four times as often as girls. In Australia, it is estimated that there are about 50,000 children are on drugs prescribed for ADHD. According to the report of the Child and Adolescent Component of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being ADHD affects about 11% of children and adolescents.

Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms include an inability to sustain attention and concentration as well as problems with impulsivity, overactivity, irritability, and moodiness. Children with ADHD often have trouble getting along with peers and are usually disruptive at home and in the classroom. ADHD children tend to be very active, oppositional, and often get in trouble at both home and school. Restlessness and impulsivity are generally not tolerated well by parents, peers, and teachers. Attention and organizational problems among ADHD children are usually lifelong problems.

Adults who experienced ADHD as children often report that they have similar trouble with attention, impulsivity, and interpersonal relationships as adults. Furthermore, they are also much more likely to develop antisocial and criminal behaviour, underachievement, and both emotional and relational problems as adults. ADHD also appears to be more common in family members with at least one other ADHD member.

These children often develop depression and low self-esteem as a result of these social interactions. They also often experience learning disabilities, and develop conduct and substance abuse disorders later in life. ADHD is not easy to diagnose. Many biopsychosocial factors might contribute to impulsivity, inattention, and disruptive behaviour without constituting ADHD per se. Marital discord, physical and/or sexual abuse, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, poor parenting practices, learning disabilities, conduct disorders, and other problems may all result in ADHD-like symptoms.

Parents, teachers, and paediatricians may also quickly diagnose ADHD without a careful evaluation. Many parents are invested in obtaining an ADHD diagnosis rather than confronting that their child rearing practices are faulty or that there exists other emotional factors to account for the problematic symptoms. A careful diagnosis usually involves a thorough history, a close review of the child’s behaviour at home and at school, as well as psychological, cognitive, and educational testing.

Treatment for ADD

Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder also reflects the biopsychosocial interplay of factors involved in the development and maintenance of ADHD symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy and problem-solving strategies to help children learn “to think before acting” have proved successful with ADHD children. Relaxation training and biofeedback has also shown some promise. Parent and teacher consultation is also an important adjunct in successful treatment. Group social skills training is also often used to help ADHD children learn to get along better with other children. A multimodal approach addressing biopsychosocial factors appears to be most comprehensive and effective way.

Stimulant medication such as Ritalin is often used and improves ADHD symptoms in approximately 75% of all cases. However, stimulant medication has been found to improve attention and concentration even among many non-ADHD children. Determining the treatment approach should be discussed with the psychiatrist, G.P. or psychologist as early diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan can save a lot of time, money and effort.

Do you have experience dealing with ADD / ADHD? If so, what treatment have you found to be effective? Share your comments below.

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